“So, you’re Mary Wu!” She exclaimed
I froze at this woman I did not even know with flowing white hair and her piercing blue eyes revealed when she put down her camera. She had the warmest smile that outshone the California sunshine. It was the winter of 2011 and on the cusp of the new 2012 year that I was basking in the warmth and glow of the sun in Pasadena, California as a float rider for the 2012 Donate Life float featured as one of the many floats at the infamous Rose Bowl Parade. The number of cameras and flashes made me feel like a starstruck, yet humbled, celebrity. This woman was one of the many who was armed with a camera to try to capture every moment through a lens.
This woman went on to explain that she was a donor grandmother. Her 14-year-old granddaughter had proclaimed after watching a news story that she (the granddaughter) would naturally become an organ donor at the time of her death. Her granddaughter’s wishes were carried out with the granddaughter’s kidneys and tissue that saved the lives of many. The grandmother went on to say that she couldn’t believe when she read my biography that I lived only 5 minutes away from her son and his family and that she would be sure to contact me when she visited them.
I did not think much about it, but she kept her promise contacting me every time she was in town. Every time we reunited, her blue eyes sparkled and she flashed her winsome wattage smile as she wrapped me in the biggest and warmest hug. Then, always, always, she handed me a mason jar of her homemade rhubarb jam. She was the one who introduced me to “rhubarb.” One time she gave me a tall plastic container with stalks of rhubarb in there. To me, the rhubarb looked like an odd celery stalk with red undertones. I did not understand if it was a vegetable or a fruit or a plant…? What the heck was it, really? Oh, how the rhubarb was misunderstood!! She raved about the rhubarb and how special it was because it always had to be another and, more often than not, a sweetener to make it edible and beyond delicious. With her, I devoured rhubarb jam and her homemade rhubarb pie. Together, we ate, exchanged recipes, talked about how the power of organ donation and transplantation made an everlasting connection and bond. It was through her granddaughter’s death and the unexpected location of where her son lives that we have kept in touch. It was through the introduction of her love for the rhubarb and the actual rhubarb that I understood that we are often misunderstood as the simple and unique rhubarb is, the world is very small and we never know who we will come into our lives and will keep coming back, and that people do really need people just as the rhubarb cannot be alone and must be with others to make it delicious and divine.
This grandmother and I rarely have contact throughout the year, but when we finally do meet and spend time together, it is like time had never existed. Do you have people like this in your life who you rarely ever have contact with, but then when you do, everything just fits and feels just right as though there was never time or space in between? When this grandmother and I reunite, our time together is always short, but full of significance—and, these, are the best and more unforgettable times with people. Have you experienced this with certain people in your life?
I think we all crave connection and to be understood in this world that is really very small. Do you feel misunderstood? Have you met someone completely unexpected through others that have come into your life? Have there been people or a person who has kept coming back into your life? Would you say that there is a bit of ‘rhubarb’ in all of us?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,